The recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) represents the single-largest investment in infrastructure in American history — and if you’ve been behind the wheel at any point in, oh, the past decade, you’ll probably agree it’s a much-needed investment.
But nestled in the bill is an ambitious plan to build a network of 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles (EV), with the goal of making EVs accessible to Americans as never before. To that end, in fact, $5 billion in funding has been specifically set aside.
Which, for drivers (as well as consumers generally), should be welcome news. Why? A few things to highlight:
- Concerns about not having enough places to charge, which is what the bill is designed to address, are a critical stumbling block for 60 percent of consumers. Looking ahead, that shouldn’t be an issue.
- Meanwhile, with the critical infrastructure to support EVs in place, renewable energy prices are forecast to continually decrease. Plus, in virtually every market across the U.S., renewable energy sources cost less than fossil fuels. And they typically get to market faster, too.
If you’re an engineering employer, on the other hand, there are probably some other considerations that should be top of mind, as the sheer scope of the infrastructure bill suggests it could have far-reaching implications for the engineering talent market. Specifically, expect demand for engineers in key specialty areas — manufacturing, electrical, civil, project managers and more — to dramatically increase soon.
What else does the sudden infusion of cash for large-scale infrastructure projects, all of which will require engineers to bring to life, portend for engineering employers going forward?
3 key considerations for engineering employers
Given the magnitude of the changes outlined in the new bill, it stands to reason that engineering employers will need to update their talent acquisition and retention strategies, lest they lose out on these vital contributors on the road ahead.
But what specific tweaks will truly move the needle with engineering candidates? Three straightforward ones spring to mind.
1. double down on upskilling and reskilling
Given that something like 70 percent of employees would consider leaving their current employers in favor of companies that are known to invest in learning and development opportunities, the essential business value of upskilling and reskilling is hard to deny. Add to that the fact that the field of engineering is looking at a labor shortage of 1.2 million workers in the U.S. by 2026, and the argument becomes air tight.
What’s more, there are a lot of good reasons to get the ball rolling now. For one, engineering currently ranks among the hottest career paths for job switchers, which means organizations that proactively offer these upskilling and reskilling opportunities may be able to tap into a fresh talent pipeline: people coming to engineering from another field.
Finally, the importance of upskilling and reskilling should be seen as an especially critical point in conjunction with the two recommendations below, given that almost one in three engineers right now believes remote work makes it harder for them to pursue growth and development opportunities.
2. experiment with more flexible job requirements
Flexibility, particularly when it comes to seniority or previous sector experience, will be a key differentiator for engineering employers going forward — in fact, it already is today (see the point about job switchers mentioned above).
Yet for many who are interested in careers in engineering, high barriers remain. For example, the majority of skilled workers (65%) think they don’t have the skills required to work in engineering, and they might be right. But how hard would it be, really, to train them and get them up to speed?
For employers, particularly in light of the ongoing engineering talent shortage, this clearly represents an opportunity. But in order to take advantage — and successfully build more robust teams — they’ll need to remove barriers to entry for highly motivated candidates who are eager to enter the field.
3. roll out remote work arrangements
Obviously, work-from-home arrangements won’t be possible in every scenario, or for every engineering employer, given the physical nature of the output called for by the IIJA. Be that as it may, remote work arrangements, even if only on a part-time basis, probably are feasible for many employers in the field. (After all, if hybrid arrangements work for aerospace engineers, they should work for, say, civil engineers, as well.) Employers that strategically take the lead in this department may well gain a significant edge on their competitors.
It’s also worth noting the results of a recent large-scale study: Four out of five engineers today want to have the option of working from home or the office — and one out of three want to work remotely 100 percent of the time. If engineering employers don’t take notice now, employees may start looking elsewhere.
keep in mind: charging stations are only one piece of the puzzle
While the IIJA allocates much-needed budget for critical EV infrastructure, it’s nonetheless worth noting that charging stations are actually just one piece of the puzzle. From there, the country will also need an electric grid capable of handling the resulting rise in demand for power usage. Notably, in that vein, battery manufacturing is specifically called out in the bill, too.
Hint: these will require engineers, too.
In the meantime, engineering employers looking to capitalize on the forecasted growth in the EV market will likely need to make substantive changes to their internal infrastructure. Many will be forced to reevaluate their existing technologies, machinery or facilities, for example, and changes to any one of those will require tolerance for risk as well as sustained, ongoing investment.
In other words, It’s going to be interesting to see what’s next. Stay tuned.
Will the IIJA’s landmark investment bring about a signal change in how Americans move about the country? Right now, it’s hard to say, but that certainly seems likely, given President Biden’s stated goal that 50 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold by 2030 be zero-emission vehicles. Indeed, the bill should push U.S. auto manufacturers to abandon their century-long romance with traditional engines in order to embrace EV-related tech for good.
Only time will tell, but in the interim, demand for top engineering talent is only going up. Get in touch with Randstad today to learn how we can help.